Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Ten Tips on Traveling with Diabetes!

Let us face it. Diabetes is a huge epidemic in America and it’s not going anywhere any time soon. As someone who works for an endocrinologist (a fancy name for a doctor who works with diabetic patients specifically), I witness first hand the struggles of daily living for a lot of people. Whether you are diagnosed later in life with Type 2 diabetes, or diagnosed at a young age with Type 1, every person’s body is different and what works for some doesn’t work for others. It can be a challenge just learning the ropes on how to help yourself at home, work, or school. But when traveling, that is a whole other ball game and can be stressful when you’re unsure of things.
So, here are MY ten tips to help make your trips a little easier.

#1 – Enough Medication and Supplies
This may sound like an absolute no brainer, but you’d be surprised. Especially if you are on insulin. Insulin injections can vary based on units so it’s better to slightly over estimate, than run out. If you’re not quite due for a refill on the medication, contact your physician. Chances are they may have samples of the medication that they can give you, to help you get through the trip or as a backup in case you start to run low. Make sure you also consider the possibility of a flight being cancelled and you may have to stay an extra day somewhere. Diabetics can NOT go without their medication or you run the risk of a high blood sugar, which can ultimately land you in the hospital. This also applies to any supplies you will need. Including your test strips, lancets, and glucometer. If you are on an insulin pump, be sure to have extra reservoirs and tubing.

#2 – Medication and Allergy List
Always keep a medication and allergy list on hand. Write them down and keep them together somewhere in a wallet or purse that can be easily found. This will help EMT services pinpoint what they can possibly give you in case you are unable to speak for yourself and determine if it could be a reaction to a medication you are taking. When making your list, make sure that you include the name of the medications, dose, and how often you are supposed to take it. For allergies, include the type of reaction you had when taking the medication, if you can remember. This is actually a great tip for anyone, especially older individuals who may not remember their medications all the time.

#3 – Medical Alert Identifier
Wear an identifier. There are so many creative and fashionable bracelets these days, that honestly, no one will probably even realize it is one unless they’re looking for it. Which, EMT services and/or people who are trained, will look for these. Some even have the option of putting emergency contact information as well.

#4 – Candy/Glucose Tablets
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. “Candy? Shouldn’t diabetics stay away from that?”. You are absolutely correct when it comes to helping control your sugars, however when/if a diabetic patient is experiencing an extreme drop in the sugar count, this can lead to diabetic shock and possible death. It is important, especially for those on insulin, to always have hard candies or fast dissolving glucose tablets on hand. You can purchase the tablets are any local pharmacy, and remember to over prepare. You never know if a situation will arise and you run out. Make sure you ask your physician ahead of time regarding how many you should take until you reach a safe blood sugar number.

#5 – Letter from your Physician
This is extremely important for airlines. All airlines will require a letter from your current physician stating that it is medically necessary to carry all of your diabetic supplies. Ask them to be specific, and include all diabetic medications, syringes, pen needles, test strips, glucometers, lancets, and any supplies that you would need for an insulin pump if you wear one. Be aware, that during the security screening process, you will most likely be asked to remove the insulin pump while you go through the metal detectors. There has been a new product on the market called a CGM, which is a 14-day implant on your arm that monitors your sugars at any given time. If you are wearing this or intend to wear one on your trip, IT MUST be included on your letter of medical necessity, as it will alert security.
#6 – Carry-on Luggage
Most airlines allow you to have at least one carry one item that you can put in the overhead bins. However, it would be a good idea to contact the airline ahead of time, and ask about being allowed to also carry on a personal item, this way it is a guarantee that you’ll be able to reach your medication at all times. Include all of your medications and diabetic supplies into this bag. If you are carrying insulin, this must be kept cool, in which you will need to also have a small soft sided lunch box. The last thing you want is to land and have your luggage with all your medication, lost. Not good! Airlines are very accommodating, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them if there’s anything you need.

#7 – Sharps Containers
Be aware that most hotels and resorts do not have a sharps container for you to dispose of your used syringes and pen needles. You can purchase a small one at a local pharmacy for you to have on hand. NEVER dispose of them in a trash can. If you are traveling to Walt Disney World, DisneyLand, Universal studios, SeaWorld or Busch Gardens, they have ones located in the restrooms that you can use, so there is no need to travel back and forth to a hotel room just to take your medication. I am also aware that the majority of the airports also have them, but be sure to ask where they are located at. For example, on a recent trip to Colorado, I noticed that one restroom had one but another didn’t. Just ask guest services to point you in the right direction.

#8 – Insurance Cards
Another one that seems silly, but it’s important. In case of an emergency or maybe you develop a cold, you’ll want to have your insurance cards. This should be a general rule regardless if you are diabetic or not. While some insurances are not transferable state to state, most are. It’s better to have them then to get hit with a huge bill later on. If you are at a loss of where to go, contact your insurance company and ask what physician you can see in that local area. Member services will be listed on the back with a phone number.

#9 – Eating out, Dieting, and Hydrating
It’s hard, I know. No one wants to think about a diet when they’re on vacation, but it’s important to at least stick as close to a diabetic diet as you can. It’s okay to indulge sometimes but refrain from over eating. If you’re on an insulin pump, be sure to account for all the extra carbs you may be intaking and plug them into your pump so that you are getting the correct amount of insulin. This also includes alcoholic beverages, as those have carbs as well. Water is your best friend!
If you’re anything like me, I am a planner so I am always checking out menus ahead of time. Try and find places that have low carb options. Disney is great about accommodating all types of special requests when it comes to their restaurants. If your traveling there, be sure to let your waiter know and they can provide many sugar free options particularly for desserts and for the buffets, as well.

#10 – Pharmacy
Before traveling, find out if your local pharmacy is also a national franchise. Walmart, for example has locations all over the United States, which can transfer prescriptions between their stores. If yours doesn’t have locations near where you are traveling, find one that excepts your insurance near your hotel or resort. Obtain their contact information so that if you find yourself in need of a medication called in, your physician’s office can easily call in or electronically send a prescription over.  If you realize that you have forgotten anything, call them right away so that you’re not going without your medication. Most pharmacies have your prescription ready within an hour.

Preparedness and knowledge are your biggest allies when it comes to tackling diabetes. It doesn’t have to be something debilitating that holds you back from being adventurous. Hopefully, these tips help ensure that you don’t run into any trouble while you’re out exploring and creating amazing memories!

By: Brooke Greene

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